Gloucester History Festival 2019: the CC4HH Exhibits

The programme for this year’s Gloucester History Festival is finally here, and we’re very excited that the student projects conducted for CC4HH will be displayed in two separate exhibits throughout the festival. These are part of the Festival’s ‘City Voices’ programme which explores aspects of local history and heritage. The theme for this year is ‘Power and the People’.

Firstly, the projects exploring Gloucester’s Windrush Generation and Gloucestershire’s LGBTQ+ community will be exhibited at the Eastgate Shopping Centre (see pic above) in Gloucester from the 7th to the 21st of September. The projects exploring Cheltenham’s history, which include life in the workhouses, a history of Pittville, and the Heritage Lottery funded project led by Dr David Howell ‘Cheltenham: Diasporas’ will be exhibited at the Chapel Arts gallery on Knapp road in Cheltenham from 4th to the 14th September. After this date, these exhibits will be relocated to the Quad Walk Gallery in the Francis Close Hall campus library at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham. Ultimately, all the exhibits will be made available on the website. Here’s a sneak preview of a couple of the panels from the Windrush and Workhouses projects.

We’re very much looking forward to this year’s exhibits, which will be the third year in the life of the Centre, and the second year of collaboration with the Festival.

Criminal Activities and WW2 in Cheltenham’s Pittville Area

Project team: Hannah Treveil, Katherine Sparks, Matthew Bedford & Racheal Chandler

Pittville is well-known for its upper-class inhabitants as it is often given a civic reputation of harmony, which has shunned away the notion of any criminal activities in the area to remain as a taboo and thus highlights Pittville as a poorly researched area. Our project aims are to investigate the area’s criminal activities in order to challenge mythological narratives of Pittville. We are additionally examining the area’s involvement and impact in WW2, which includes the destruction of Cheltenham’s great spa building – Pittville Pump Room

Our initial research has focused on demographic changes in Pittville. We have studied the shift towards multi-occupancy houses as well as the history surrounding the Pittville Pump Room, which was used as military storage units for American munitions and equipment during the war. The Pump Room suffered extensive damage and local residents fought over its restoration; some wanted it to be restored to its previous state, but others wanted it to become a building to benefit the whole community.

We are also researching the lives of soldiers from Pittville who died during WW2. Pittville History Works helped us to compile a list that demonstrate that twenty-two Pittville servicemen and one service woman had sacrificed their lives during WW2. To develop this research, we have consulted Graham Sacker’s Held in Honour: Cheltenham and the Second World War, as well as searching newspapers in order to uncover photographs and further details about the lives of the soldiers prior to and during the war. For example, Flying Officer (Air Bomber) Donald Cameron McIntosh (third from the left), a resident of Camden Lodge, Clarence Road, was killed in action in Germany on the 30th November 1944. We are in the process of writing brief narratives of each of these soldiers.

In order to tie our research with the criminal activity in Pittville and during WW2 together, the Pittville History Works team have supplied us with information on soldier Cyril Johnson. Despite his heroic remembrance as a water transport driver who died at sea during the WW2, Johnson was previously involved in petty crimes. He was sent to prison on at least three occasions for stealing school-boy bicycles, car theft at the Hotel Majestic in Pittville and other robberies.

As part of our research into the criminal activities, Rachael and Katherine have utilised the prison and asylum records in the Gloucestershire Archives. We have combined our findings from these records with information from Ancestory.com to develop an insight into the crimes and the criminals. Petty crimes were the most common offences, particularly in relation to servants stealing from their households. This was perhaps to be expected due to the predominantly middle-class demographics of Pittville. Nevertheless, we have also discovered a number of horrific murders and stabbings in Pittville, including the murder of a young woman, Alice Gardener, by Frederick Jones in 1817.

We have analysed newspaper reports and used these in conjunction with the information found from the prison and asylum records. This has revealed extracts of reports from the murders and crimes in general, to identify any additional information from the journalists whose findings were not included in the official records. Through the use of the newspapers and records, we have been able to find images of the criminals to include on our display panels and to gain a more developed insight into their lives and what the criminals were like. For example, Elizabeth Hill, a 42-year old charwoman, was committed for stealing bed linen on the 2nd July 1870. She was sentenced for six months of hard labour and under two years of police supervision.

Elizabeth Hill

Oral History on Cheltenham’s Lower High Street

By Tom Adams (Second Year Undergraduate History Student)

In a new series of posts, History students at the University of Gloucestershire will be outlining progress on new research projects for the 2019 Gloucester History Festival.

As part of a research internship on my degree in History, I took the opportunity to investigate the history of the Lower High street area in Cheltenham as part of the ongoing research project, Cheltenham’s Lower High Street: Past, Present & Future. Often perceived as being a less prestigious area of the town, this Lower High Street now has an abundance of different cultures and nationalities, incorporating a mixture of different shops and markets, including barber shops, liquor stores, restaurants, takeaways, and clothing stores. This is the Cheltenham I currently live in, but I took up this placement as I was curious to find out more about the area and the people that once lived there decades ago. This, of course entailed talking to people that used to inhabit this area.

Firstly, Dr Christian O’Connell gave me an audio recording to transcribe from an interview conducted as part of the project. This allowed me to gain an understanding of the sort of questions to ask, the methodology of asking questions and the techniques to consider when conducting an oral history interview. The interview was with a lady called Lynn Ricketts, who grew up in the area. She gave an insight into what life was like living there during the second half of the twentieth century, which was very much in line with the memories of other interviewees who recalled a bustling neighbourhood and were nostalgic for the tightly knit communities that surrounded the High Street. She also remarked how the area had changed and deteriorated over the years.

Following on from this interview, I arranged an interview of my own with Jess Harrod, a lady who coincidently works at the University of Gloucestershire. There were a number of questions I prepared concerning the life in the area. I was particularly interested to find out if the people that lived on the Lower High Street were mixed with the members of society that lived in the more prestigious areas of ‘Regency Cheltenham,’ or whether they lived completely separate lives. Her response was interesting. From memory she said that there was very little interaction between the two sides of Cheltenham and in fact, a vast majority of people that lived in the Lower High Street area never even visited places like the Promenade or Montpellier, which was surprising. In addition, I also found out that Jess’s grandparents owned the beloved Wembley Café that was extremely popular to many of the residents in the area, and is even mentioned in the famous Lower High Street poem. The Café was burnt down in 1979, amazingly, no one was hurt and no one ever found out the cause of the fire. However, after it burnt down, the event was so big it actually made it as a story in the Echo newspaper. After the fire, the building was abandoned by Jess’s grandparents and was to be a café no more.

Gloucestershire Echo article from 1979 reporting the fire at the Wembley Cafe.’

I was also intrigued to find out about the day to day lives of people that lived in the area, what they did for entertainment and their quality of life. Through interviewing Jess I found out that community was everything. Unlike today, children spent all day outside playing, or in Jess’ case, hanging around her grandparents Café. It seems to have been a really happy place, everyone knew everyone, and the area was, in essence, self-sufficient. No one needed to visit the Promenade, everything that people needed to live was within an arm’s reach, be that the butchers, bakery, or indeed shops such as the Wembley Café. Having read some of the reports from last year on the Lower High Street area, her memories were in contrast to stories I’d read about violent crime. Having asked Jess this very question I found out that there were indeed murders that took place in the area. Jess told me about one which took place not too far from her Grandparents café, where a boy called Murray Pugh was stabbed in March 1993. The murder also made it to the Echo newspaper, and as a result of the murder a ‘Murray Pugh Memorial Fund’ was set up to offer assistance of up to £2,000 to students and staff working with children with special needs at the University of Gloucestershire, and to children with physical disabilities themselves at the university.

Where the Wembley Cafe’ used to be on the corner of the Lower High Street and King Street.

This whole investigative process has helped develop my understanding of the importance of oral history. As oral historians Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson suggest, ‘the interviewing of eye-witness participants in the events of the past for the purposes of historical reconstruction has transformed the practice of contemporary history in many countries.’ I think I also agree with their metaphor that ‘every old man that dies is a library that burns.’ In addition, by working on the Lower High Street project, I have seen how ‘oral history has allowed access so that social groups in communities are often inadequately or even completely unrepresented by traditional archival sources’ (Peter Claus and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Methods, Theory and Practice, 2012). Through my own investigation and conducting of interviews, I have truly developed a sound understanding of the practice of oral history.

‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project secures HLF funding.

The History team at the University of Gloucestershire, and the Cotswolds Centre for History and Heritage, is pleased and excited to announce that a Heritage Lottery Fund award has been granted in support of the forthcoming ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project.

‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ will explore narratives of migration in Cheltenham. The town has a long history of being a gateway to the south west, however relatively little work has been done to document the narratives of those migrating into the area. This project will focus on the more recent history of Cheltenham and record oral testimonies of first and second generation migrants living in Cheltenham today.

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University of Gloucestershire History students worked closely with communities in Cheltenham as part of the Lower High Street project. Picture by Clint Randall http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

Stories of travel, culture, change and community are all of vital importance to understanding the way our communities have become what they are today. All too often, however, these stories are left undocumented until it is too late. ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ creates the ideal opportunity to work with local communities, to help them record their own history, and become custodians of their story, while sharing it with a significantly wider audience.

 
‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ will focus on recording stories of migration, but it will also look to provide training opportunities to members of the community and students based with the University. It is hoped that, following training in recording of oral histories, this is a project that will be taken on and maintained by people living in Cheltenham. Project results will be maintained in an online archive, in addition to a touring exhibition based on the community led research.

 
This project follows on from the success of other community history projects led by the History team at the University of Gloucestershire, including the very successful ‘Lower High Street’ project in 2016-2017. In a ten day period, over 1000 people visited a pop-up exhibition celebrating the history of the Lower High Street, demonstrating the huge value placed on these local stories by the surrounding community. ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ looks to build on the success of these past projects, while giving greater voice to the significant cultural diversity found in Cheltenham.

 
The History team would like to thank the Heritage Lotter Fund, and National Lottery players, for their support, without which this project would not be possible.
‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ formally commences in July, 2018, and training opportunities will be made available and advertised once the project is underway.

 
For any questions, queries or general interest regarding the ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project please contact dhowell1@glos.ac.uk, or follow the History team at Cheltenham on twitter or on our facebook page. You can find information about other recent and ongoing projects via the Cotswolds Centre for Heritage and History website: http://www.cc4hh.co.uk

The Centenary of the End of the Great War in Cheltenham

Project Group: Rebecca Humphrey, Rhian James, Lily Lord, Bertie Lyman

Our group is looking at the centenary of the end of World War One and the effect on the local area in Cheltenham. After visiting the archives as a source of preliminary research we decided to divide the project into three separate areas.

After setting up a simple timeline outlining the events of the Great War, we are going to provide a case-study of a specific area in Cheltenham, allowing us to research the impact on a direct local area. As we already know, Cheltenham racecourse was converted into a military hospital, so we think that this might be an interesting area to study due to the massive change in purpose. However, we are also interested in studying the St Paul’s area, as this housed two schools as well as having a large residential population. The impact of the war on both of these separate areas would have been considerable and so we hope this will form an interesting section of our project.

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Mary Ann Young: the only woman listed on the FCH WWI Memorial Board

We would like to look at the impact of the war on specific people. We have already completed research on the soldiers who fought in the war from both St Paul’s college and other schools, working with the university archives to aid our research. From this point, we have decided to choose 3 specific case-studies to research for our final piece, including not only a soldier from the school here, but perhaps someone who was not killed in battle as well. Mary Young was the only woman to be commemorated in the university memorial boards.

Finally, we have been researching memorials in Cheltenham. In addition to this, we have a specific interest in how exactly the end of the war was celebrated in the town. We are planning to combine both aspects of this commemoration of the end of the war to provide an overview of the legacy and impact of the war, both immediately and throughout time.

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Order of Service for the Cheltenham War Memorial Unveiling Ceremony, 5 November 1922

Through the research and presentation of each of these areas, we are hoping to provide a comprehensive and interesting overview of the impact of the Great War in Cheltenham. We are hoping that through studying specific areas, people and dates we can provide a good insight into the time whilst humanising the event and provoking emotion in anyone who reads our project findings.

Women’s Suffrage in Cheltenham

Project Group: Anna Cardy, Laura Collins, Bradley Dickinson, James Juden, Sharmaine Roch, Dan Wills

This year marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People’s Act by which women over the age of thirty gained the vote in Britain. Our group has been tasked with looking at the suffragette movement in Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. We decided that our best plan of action was to research and gather as much information surrounding the subject as possible. Following this, we met and discussed our research, deciding that we were individually each to focus on one aspect of our research findings to cover the subject efficiently.

Sharmaine’s focus of the project will primarily look at the nationwide movement of the 1911 census evasion, with an emphasis on Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. This strategy of opposition was reinforced by the idea of the ‘No Vote, No Census’ movement whereby women were encouraged to evade the census on the night of recording. Women argued that if they were not considered a citizen, they should not be included in official citizen documentation. Sharmaine has also been in contact with the Wilson Gallery in Cheltenham which once held an exhibition commemorating the suffrage movement.

Although she has made some progress and has been given bits of information about the exhibition pieces, she has yet to hear from the curators about whether the group will be granted permission to take photos of some of the exhibition pieces for our own exhibition. Nevertheless, this discussion is on-going, and we hope to hear from the Wilson soon. With regards to future research and progress, Sharmaine’s basis for research is growing and she hopes to visit Gloucestershire Archives in the nearby future to expand this further.

Dan and Brad’s focus for this project is the militant action in and around Gloucestershire. Cheltenham was a significant location in the suffrage movement in the South-West (second to Bristol). During our exploration of local news articles researching militancy during the suffrage campaign, we came across a discussion that arose multiple times concerning whether the suffrage movement was hindered by the few violent acts that suffragettes conducted during 1913-14, these being three separate acts of arson. The research explores whether or not suffrage demands would have been recognised without the acts of the militants, or whether the suffragettes harmed the image of the suffrage movement as a whole, possibly hindering and altering the public’s view on Cheltenham’s suffrage campaign.

Despite the national direction of militant and violent action, suffragette activities were rare in Cheltenham during this period. One of the rare examples of suffragette militancy in Cheltenham was the Alstone Lawn arson attack, committed on 21 December 1913 by two suffragettes who were later identified by local papers as ‘Red’ and ‘Black’. The two women were promptly arrested the next day and subsequently went on hunger strike. This was reported in the Gloucestershire Echo, which we have been able to view through chronographs at the local studies library. Further sentiment is expressed in other local papers such as the Cheltenham Chronicle.

Both James and Anna are focusing on the actions and the role of individuals involved in the suffrage movement in Cheltenham. James is focusing on Harriet McIlquham, the campaigner for equal rights and the presence of women in local government, and Madame Borovikovski(y), one of the first members of her local suffrage branch to be imprisoned for involvement in the cause of women’s enfranchisement. These women represent a rarely told history of the suffrage movement in Cheltenham. Anna is looking at Mrs Frances (Rosa) Swiney, who was the President of the Cheltenham’s Woman’s Suffrage Society as well as publishing widely on women’s rights. She is also looking at Mrs Florence Eagerny, who subscribed to many groups in Cheltenham, including the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union. Eagerney is also significant because of her husband’s involvement in the women’s rights movement. Mr Eagerney was the honorary secretary of the Cheltenham Branch of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) in 1911, and in 1913 he became the President of the Tewkesbury Branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

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James is organising a video to be made showing the opinions and thoughts of local residents about the suffrage movement.

Laura is looking at contemporary suffrage groups, including those that were unsuccessful. The active groups include the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society (NUWSS), the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the more militant Women’s Freedom League (WFL). It is interesting to note that even the militant group was not prepared to damage property or use violence, even though they were willing to break the law. Their spokesperson, Florence Earengey, discussed with the local papers the violence used by the WSPU. As far back as the 1870s, there was considerable support for women’s suffrage in Cheltenham and later it was thought that many joined the NUWSS in order to support the cause.

The Battle of Tewkesbury

Project Group: Mike Barnes, Michael Holmes, Laura Hunt, Shauna Ralph, Becky Turner

Our group project aims to identify whether the Gastons field in Tewkesbury played a major part in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Battle of Tewkesbury was a vital battle in the Wars of the Roses, being one of the most significant battles from the time because it subsequently ended the war. Our goal is to determine whether the Gastons field was used in this battle, or if the battle took place elsewhere in Tewkesbury.

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On 26 February 2018, we visited Tewkesbury as a group to visit the Gastons and surrounding fields from the Battle Trail. As well as this, we spent some time in the Heritage Centre to gain inspiration and learn how the town presents the history of the battle. We also visited Tewkesbury Abbey, which is believed to be a major area for where the soldiers fled to during the battle.

Whilst we were visiting the field, it soon became clear that, as a group, we are enthusiastic about archaeological findings. As a result, David Howell is planning to arrange a group dig for us to try to find any clues from the battle in order to help us determine whether or not this field was a site of battle. We believe this will be extremely useful for our project as finding material evidence of items from the battle would help us solidify our answer to the project as to whether the field was a major part in the battle.

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As well as the trip, we meet regularly to discuss our findings. We discuss what we have found out during the week running up to our meetings and where we currently stand with our research. As well as discussing what we have discovered so far, we also discuss what we hope to have achieved by the time we meet up again the following week. Thus, this gives us a good overview of the progress of the group work and means we are not overloading ourselves. We also discuss what we want as the outcomes of this project and every week we discuss what we would like to see on the panels we are preparing for the project exhibition.